AFTER THE CEASEFIRES - Book / Exhibition / Film  After covering the Gaza war in 2008-2009 photojournalist Geert van Kesteren meets photographer Noa Ben-Shalom. They share experiences and wonder about the systematical oppression of individual freedom caught in a mix of ancient religions, tribal rules and high tech security measures. They discover that the citizens of these two nations no longer seem to possess a concept connected to the word peace. Do the people of this land still possess the ability to think beyond a cease fire?
BAGHDAD CALLING - 2008 This book approaches the daunting complexity of the war from the perspective of the individual refugee. What are the reasons for leaving behind hearth and home? There are 4,5 million Iraqi refugees living in Northern Iraq and the surrounding countries. They receive emails and photographs from relatives and friends who are still living in Iraq. Geert van Kesteren collected these mobile phone images and testimonies from the refugees to create the series Baghdad Calling. Without knowing him, one suspects Geert van Kesteren to be the punk of photo- journalism... Instead of pushing back, he embraces new realities. (‘Le Monde2’ on ‘Baghdad Calling)
JAZZ PHOTOGRAPHY Once a year I photograph a live jazz concert. For inspiration. Although it is impossible to photograph the essence of jazz - that you can only find in the moment - I try to share with these images the universal language of the most genius and spontaneous music. Mankind at his best! As antidote to the other images I usually present.
NUNUSAKU - STORIES OF MIGRATION / 2011. This project produced with photographer Conny Luhulima represents an univeral story of identity and migration. The Malukan people's struggle with their indegenous history and recent neocolonial past is symbolic of universal questions about culture and identity. Conny Luhulima portrayed living rooms of her family relatives - those living in exile in the Netherlands and those who still live in their native villages on the Maluku islands. Geert van Kesteren made a 4-screen video installation in which four Alifuru elders reveil the story of Nunusaku. An exhibition that challenges to explore the significance of identity and cultural diversity in an era of modern globalisation.
WHY MISTER, WHY? - IRAQ 2003/4. Already, what is being regarded as the second’s Gulf War’s equivalent to Vietnam Inc. has been published. ‘Why Mister, Why?’ by Geert van Kesteren is a photo book in the best concerned photographer tradition... a damnin indictment. ‘Why Mister, Why?’ is a partisan book and yet it is an even-handed one, if this is not too contradictory. Its questioning title WHY MISTER, WHY? - taken from the plea that many Iraqis apparently begged of the American troops - is reminiscent for the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. Van Kesteren, working for 'Newsweek', was embedded with US troops [for only six weeks] and saw behaviour that disturbed him. Yet, he points the finger of blame not at the men on the ground, but at the politicians who brought about the situation. (Gerry Badger; writer, curator, photographer and Martin Parr; photographer & collector, Magnum Photos in ‘the Photo Book: A history Volume II’)
iAPP WHY MISTER, WHY? March 2013, ten years after the invasion of Iraq, is a relevant moment for reflection on a crucial moment of our recent history.  The Iraq war resulted in the deaths of 150.000 to 600.00 people, while 5 million are displaced. Was this indeed a ‘just war’ as president Obama has recently said? Did it create a ‘domino effect’ of democracy and stability in the Middle East? Was the war in Iraq the ignitor for the Arab spring or an Arab winter? Or was the war one big disaster and a mistake - based on wrong assumptions and lies?  IN PRODUCTION FOR 2013-2014
ZAMBIA! ZAMBIA!  A journalistic road movie, a portrait of an energetic, yet worrisome Zambia. 'We keep winning and will never give up, until the needs and the right of people living with Aids and HIV are addressed in a fair way. That is typical a revolutionist, that is what I am. I am a fighter, I do not fight people, I fight systems.’ (Clemen Mufuzi, AIDS activist). Commissioned by the Dutch Institute for Southern Africa and Kunsthal Rotterdam, supported by Hivos, NCDO and Aids Fonds.
Van Kesteren and Ben-Shalom answer some relevant questions and dilemmas that they have often been asked whilst preparing for their new project After the Ceasefires. Their answers show their personal motivation and the urgency of this project.

What is the actual problem for which this project is looking for an answer?
It’s not about answers or literally the dramatic events that draw people’s attention. The project concerns the nature and character of the endless conflict itself. After the Ceasefires tells what it is like to live in this endless conflict. What does it do to you?

Why is there no peace?
This is an authentic questions. And also a painful one for everyone in the region, regardless their nationality. Ehh, indeed, why not?

What will this project contribute to?
‘Our project will contribute to the peace process!’ That’s a repeated joke between us. Because he who wants to bring peace often makes it worse. In principle we believe in the power of art and journalism. The conflict is characterised by internal division which is camouflaged by the acknowledgement of a mutual enemy. A trauma psychologist told us that the long conflict lead to a malignant vicious circle of fear, that led to a collective burn-out on both sides. Those in power and those who undermine it see this circle of fear as a unifying principle. The result is a status-quo of impotence, a lack of  trust and a constant life in fear.

For the people who are born, grow up and have to lead their normal lives in Israel and Palestine, conflict is always present. With this project we attempt to offer an alternative answer to question why there is no peace in the region. It is impossible to give a simple answer. Is it because of the politicians, the wall, the occupation, the suicide  attacks? It goes much deeper. We are really going to try to fathom the conflict. Even from an absurd position. Anyway, the local population seems to find humour very important  in order to escape the cynical logic of the conflict. We can only hope that with this humble, even desperate attempt we will be able to share convincing new insights on the conflict not only with the local population but also with the world.

How many journalists and photographers have already done this type of thing before? What is new and different?
New and different seem to be irrelevant concepts since the time Duchamp put a lavatory in a museum and called it art. We can only offer ourselves, authentic, honest and sincere; look at ourselves in regard to the things we observe and the people of whom we make a portrait.  In contrast to other journalists and photographers, especially those who focus on injustice - taken from the interpretive perspective of perpetrators and victims - this project looks at the Holy Land as an arena where a basic conflict is taking place. We are not necessarily looking  for good or bad people. This is a remarkable starting point. Instead of focussing on some personal tragedies or triumphs, we look at the tour guides in their attempts to identify the situation. Making use of selective repeats, erasing and remembering they try to programme the collective memory and guide the future identity of the country. Taking this endless palette of convictions with us we then travel through the Holy Land.

All her life Noa has been doing research in her native land, Israel, on the influence of the always present conflict on her daily life. Thus, it is also her personal story. As a photo-journalist I have visited and studied the conflicts in the Middle East for nearly 20 years. We realise that our research methods are not the easiest ones.

Actually, who is still interested in this conflict?
The people who live in Palestine and Israel are interested. The Jewish as well as the Arab Diaspora is interested. Believers are interested just as non believers. The whole Arab world seems to be interested, Europe, Russia, the United Nations and America show their interest; in any case their leaders do. Many NGO’s and their followers are interested. Arms dealers are interested. Activists are interested. The media is still over represented in the region. Tourists come from all over. You’d think: who isn’t?

 

info@geertvankesteren.com

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Geert van Kesteren (born 1966) is a photographer based in Amsterdam. His photography is acclaimed for a cinematic feel of storytelling; an author with a camera that gives insights into the psyche and soul of conflict. His landmark books, 'Why Mister, Why?' and 'Baghdad Calling' about the war in Iraq, serve as a new model for the possibilities of engaged and innovative documentary.  He is recipient of several major fellowships from the BKVB, Mondriaan and D&M Foundations and was awarded the Infinity Award 2009 in Photojournalism from the ICP in New York. His work is represented in the collection of the Dutch Photo Museum and Rijks Museum and presented in most major international magazines, including Newsweek, Stern, the Independent and GEO magazine. Van Kesteren’s photographs have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including Recontres d’ Arles, Visa d’Or and recently at the British Museum, the Barbican Art Gallery and the 2008 Brighton Photo Biennial.  His first monograph, Mwendanjangula! Aids in Zambia, was published by Mets & Schilt in 2000. Since then Geert van Kesteren has published Why Mister, Why? (2004) and Baghdad Calling (2008). Both books, reflecting on the war in Iraq, became instant-classics. Van Kesteren was a nominee at Magnum Photos (2005-2008) and since 2006 in the Advisory Board of World Press Photo.

PUBLICATIONS

MWENDANJANGULA!
Aids in Zambia.
Photographs: Geert van Kesteren.
Text: Arthur van Amerongen
Publisher: Mets & Schilt, Amsterdam and D. Philip Publishers, Cape Town, 2000
Dutch or English

WHY MISTER, WHY?
Iraq 2003-2004
Photographs and text: Geert van Kesteren.
Design: Mevis & Van Deursen.
Editing: Edie Peters.
Publisher: Artimo 2004
Dutch-Arabic or English-Arabic

BAGHDAD CALLING
Reports from Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Iraq
Photographs, interviews and text: Geert van Kesteren.
Digital & Mobile Phone images: Iraqi civilians.
Design: Mevis & Van Deursen.
Editing: Edie Peters.
Publisher: Episode 2008.
Dutch or English